1. Choose your destination – the first three years of travelling with babies are the most difficult, so choose destinations that aren’t so off the beaten track. The world doesn’t change so fast that your top destinations won’t be there in a couple of years.
2. Consider health – When your child is very young you may not want to pump them with unnecessary chemicals. Immunisations and malaria tablets are essential in some parts of our beautiful world so think about where you are going and whether you could go somewhere else.
3. Slow down – As a backpacker, if I stayed two nights in one location I thought I’d developed roots. Today with two children in tow, we look to stay a minimum of two nights. Children are very flexible but having at least one day’s rest between travel ensures you can explore more at each destination, rather than thinking constantly about your next stop.
4. Don’t pack too much – children are raised all over the world, and very few places are so remote that you can’t buy what you need. That said, do some research and make sure you can get what you need. You might be able to use washable nappies, instead of disposable ones, but you won’t be able to make do without junior’s special milk formula.
5. Pack the essentials in your hand luggage - extra nappies, wet wipes, spare clothes, the special teddy. I’ve been caught out with a baby, suddenly producing teething nappies, when we were stuck on the runway for three hours. I thought ten nappies was enough for an eight hour flight. Apparently not. The sanitary pad offered to me by the air stewardess wasn’t exactly helpful.
6. To stroll or not – on one hand it is extremely useful to have a buggy at the airport, especially as you can take it to the gate. However, if you are travelling alone, trying to collapse a buggy into an x-ray machine single-handed, with a toddler and a baby, a nappy bag, a handbag, a day pack, a snack pack etc. is an impressive, and very stressful, feat to achieve. From the age of two our daughters were able to hang on to the handle as we wheeled our suitcase around (yes, I traded my backpack for a suitcase!)
7. Take a backpack – I don’t mean stuffing your child into a regular day sack. Invest in a child carrier that will double as a day sack. Imagine how smug you’ll feel when you just have the one bag to deal with. And of course, it’s essential if you want to do any amount of walking. Ever tried wheeling a buggy through an overcrowded city, or up a mountain? Get the right gear. And ditch the handbag.
8. Rein them in – controversial to some, but baby reins are really, really useful. It’s safety first, and if you have an active toddler, you know where they are. Particularly useful in airports at the x-ray machine, while you’re struggling with that buggy (see point 6!).
9. Create a diversion (part 1) – pack snacks, and plenty of them. Boxes of fiddly raisons are great; healthy and time-consuming to eat. If you’re using pre-prepared baby food, pack pouches rather than glass jars. They are lighter, take up less room, and not as likely to break or be confiscated by airport officials.
10. Create a diversion (part 2) – Pack some toys, but wrap them up first. Unwrapping something is often as much fun as playing with it.
I should also say relax, but I’m unlikely to take my own advice. Things will go wrong, but they make the best stories afterwards.
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